I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.
The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
Chasing leads, maybe
Jan hailed a taxi and had it drop us off a block from her building. It was agreed that we would not just arrive out the front and trust to luck that everything would be fine.
I had a feeling that Nobbin would have come to the same conclusion I had, that it was possible the USB might be in the neighbor’s flat. I’m sure Josephine hadn’t thought of that possibility. Severin had, but I suspect he might not know of the cat.
Nor would Nobbin.
We did a circuit of the building before going in. There were no suspicious cars, nr anyone lurking in the shadows. If we had surveillance, it was really good, or there was none. I preferred to think the latter option was right. After all, neither Nobbin nor Severin knew exactly where I was.
Jan unlicked the front door and we went into the brightly lit foyer.
During the day there was a concierge sitting at the desk. At night, it was empty. The building manager couldn’t afford 24-hour security, beyond the bright lights, and camera in each quadrant recording the comings and goings of residents. I’m not sure how Josephine got in, but I would have like to have the time to go through the old footage to check on O’Connell in the past, and Josephine, if she came through the front door, recently.
I glanced at the monitor, at present on screen saver mode, then followed Jan to the elevator lobby.
She pressed the button to go up, and the doors to the left-hand elevator opened. We stepped in, she pressed the floor button, the doors closed, and we slowly went up.
It hesitated at the floor, jerked up about an inch or two, then a click signified it was level and the doors opened.
I could see her door from the elevator. As we got closer, I could see it was open, ajar by about half an inch. There was no tell-tale strip of light behind the opening so it could mean someone was in her flat searching by torchlight, or there was no one there.
After a minute waiting to see if there was a moving light somewhere in the flat, it remained dark.
Standing behind me, I could see she had pulled a gun out of her handbag and had it in one hand ready to use. She could have used it any time since we first met, but she hadn’t.
I pushed the door open slowly, and thankfully it didn’t make a creaking sound. Wide enough to walk in, I took a few tentative steps into the first room. There was little light, and my eyes took a while to adjust to the darkness.
I could feel her going past me, further into the room, and with the gun raised and in two hands to steady the shot. She took more steps, slowly towards the passage leading to her bedroom, I assumed, as it was a reverse copy of that next door, O’Connell’s.
There was no one in this part of the flat, and she had disappeared up the corridor and into her room. Nothing there either.
“Clear,” she called out.
I stepped back to close and lock the door. At the same time, she switched on the main room light and for a second it was almost blinding.
When my sight cleared, I could see the signs of a search, furniture tipped over, books dragged from the shelves, other items tossed on the floor, one of which was a vase, now broken into a number of pieces.
“Looks like they were in a hurry,” she said.
“Or frustrated.” I could see clear marks of an item that had been thrown against the wall and dented the plasterwork. The broken shards of the ornament were on the ground beneath the indentation.
I heard her sigh when she saw the broken pieces.
“Not the best way to treat a genuine Wedgewood antique.”
She disappeared into the bedroom again, and I could hear her calling the cat, Tibbles. Interesting name for a cat.
I didn’t hear it answer back. It was probably traumatized after the breaking and the smashing of crockery.
I had a quick look in places I thought the cat might hide, but it was not in any of them. And, oddly enough, no traces of cat hair. Usually, cats left fur wherever they lay down. At least one cat I knew did that.
She came back empty-handed.
“I think it’s done a runner,” she said. “He’s not in the usual place he hides, nor under the bed, or under the covers, as he sometimes does, usually when I’m trying to sleep.”
“Well, it was a good idea. We might have to search outside. The cat was allowed to go outside?”
“He’d escape, yes, but no. O’Connell thought if he got out, he’d get run over. It’s a reasonably busy road outside.”
“Better out there than in here, though. Open windows?”
She did a quick check, but none were open.
“Did O’Connell ever come in here?”
“Once or twice, but he only dropped in if he was going away to ask if I would look after the cat, or when he came back. Never further than the front door.”
“Knowing who is was, now, do you think he might have come in and hidden the USB in here?”
“He might, but there isn’t anywhere I could think he could put it.”
“But that doesn’t mean he didn’t.”
Both of us heard the scratching sound at the front door, not the sort made by a cat trying to get in, but by someone using a tool to unlock the door.
Someone was trying to break in.
© Charles Heath 2019-2020